Recently, the sexual assault trial against Bill Cosby ended in a mistrial, with the prosecutor vowing to seek a retrial. After a judge released the names of the jurors in the Cosby case, several spoke to the media about the case, giving anonymous accounts of the deliberations and their thoughts about the evidence.
One juror’s views on the evidence in the case were particularly troubling — and show exactly what we mean when we say that we are living in a rape culture. Recall that in a deposition, Cosby admitted that he obtained and used drugs on women to coerce them, while they were impaired, into having sex with him. Cosby admitted to having sex with the victim in this case, and to giving her drugs. Yet, despite this admission, the male juror found that the victim’s rape accusation was not credible because she had a bare midriff and incense and bath salts. This same male juror — who refused to say if he voted to find Cosby innocent or guilty — stated that Cosby had already “paid dearly.” According to this man, the victim should only have seen Cosby at his home if she was “dressed properly” and “left the incense at the store.” He also stated that there was no stained garment or smoking gun, and that the more than 60 women who have also accused Cosby of similar assaults were making up their claims to get attention.
This is rape culture: rather than believing a victim when she says that a man drugged and raped her — even when that same man admitted to drugging her — this juror chose to blame her for her own assault. He questioned her clothing choices, the gifts she brought, the propriety of going to her mentor’s home, and why she did not have more or better evidence. He did not question what Cosby was wearing, why he was obtaining drugs or drugging women, why he was inviting young women to his house, or anything at all that Cosby did. This juror is so steeped in rape culture that rather than believe that a man who admitted to drugging women so he could sexually assault them raped this woman, this man instead chose to blame her and claim that there simply was no evidence that she was actually raped. Significantly, the prosecution put on five full days of evidence to prove the sexual assault — and the defense only presented six minutes of testimony to claim that the encounter was consensual. Despite this stark imbalance, this juror stated that the claim of sexual assault was not credible. Once again, this is rape culture at work.
So how can we fight back against rape culture when it is so pervasive in our society? One of the best ways is through education; we must understand what rape culture is in order to defeat it. You can learn more about the root causes of gender-based violence and about sexual assault via our website, or schedule a free training and education program for your school or organization. We must also speak out against rape culture. Remember that whenever someone questions a victim of sexual assault, mocks her or him, or dismisses her or his experience, it contributes to rape culture. Stand up against these actions — so that you can help to change this harmful way of thinking.